Nanoscale structure of amyloid-β plaques in Alzheimer's disease

Sci Rep. 2019 Mar 26;9(1):5181. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41443-3.


Soluble amyloid-β (Aβ) is considered to be a critical component in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Evidence suggests that these non-fibrillar Aβ assemblies are implicated in synaptic dysfunction, neurodegeneration and cell death. However, characterization of these species comes mainly from studies in cellular or animal models, and there is little data in intact human samples due to the lack of adequate optical microscopic resolution to study these small structures. Here, to achieve super-resolution in all three dimensions, we applied Array Tomography (AT) and Stimulated Emission Depletion microscopy (STED), to characterize in postmortem human brain tissue non-fibrillar Aβ structures in amyloid plaques of cases with autosomal dominant and sporadic AD. Ultrathin sections scanned with super-resolution STED microscopy allowed the detection of small Aβ structures of the order of 100 nm. We reconstructed a whole human amyloid plaque and established that plaques are formed by a dense core of higher order Aβ species (~0.022 µm3) and a peripheral halo of smaller Aβ structures (~0.003 µm3). This work highlights the potential of AT-STED for human neuropathological studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age of Onset
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism*
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / chemistry*
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Plaque, Amyloid / chemistry*


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides